Artist - Sun Kil Moon
Album - Universal Themes
Label - Caldo Verde
Mark Kozelek releases albums under a variety of names, including his own, as Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon (named for a Korean boxer). He's followed up last year's outstanding Benji set with another emotionally raw work, still obsessed with his "universal" themes: death, loss, friendship and Led Zeppelin. "One time I got a guitar and that was the start of my life" he sings, and the whole album is a testament to the interplay between his psyche and musical creativity.
He rains lyrics on the listener in big chunks (the shortest song is 6:45 and the longest over ten minutes), with flamenco-style acoustic guitars driving underneath and providing interludes when he needs a breath (there's an absolutely gorgeous instrumental section in "Cry Me a River Williamsburg Sleeve Tattoo Blues" for instance). He also sometimes uses electric guitars to create suddenly-appearing dense freak-out sections. In his somewhat ragged but always emotive voice, he sings about his friends and celebrities using their real names, and often seems to be basically narrating his everyday experiences and career events: going to see Godflesh play at DNA Lounge in San Francisco in "The Possum," doing a gig at the Henry Fonda Theatre in Hollywood in "Little Rascals," or playing himself in a movie, hanging out with Paul Dano in the Alps, in "Birds of Flims" (Flims is an actual Swiss village, and a nice anagram of "films" too.)
Several times he sings about being upset when an animal gets sick or dies, and he also worries about his "Garden of Lavender," which dries out while he's on tour ("I'm not sure what my lavender symbolized/But inside my heart cried/And my heart is drawn to small out-of-the-way things"). Driving in San Francisco he sees "where Robin Williams died/Passed him once in a car on Thanksgiving Day/Was with my girlfriend at the time" and tells us "my mom's visiting on Sunday with her boyfriend/She's gonna kick my ass in Scrabble over and over again."
Unfortunately, his honesty of expression limits his chances of being heard on the radio, because of his use of multiple f-bombs in nearly every song. So you'll have to seek this one out and enjoy it in privacy. -- Mark Leviton